“Introduction to Job,” Old Testament Study Guide for Home-Study Seminary Students (2014)
“Job,” Old Testament Study Guide
One of the most basic questions any person of faith must wrestle with is why bad things happen to good people. The book of Job gives an account of a righteous man who faithfully responded to difficult trials. Job’s experience invites us to ponder difficult questions about the causes of suffering, the frailty of human existence, and the reasons to trust in God even when life seems unfair. Throughout all of his trials, Job retained his integrity and his trust in God even when another person suggested that he “curse God, and die” (Job 2:9). Because all of us may feel like Job at one time or another, this book offers a poignant analysis of some of life’s most difficult questions.
It is unknown who wrote the book of Job.
We do not know when or where the book of Job was written.
The book of Job is written almost entirely in poetic language, with a prologue and an epilogue in prose, and is often classified as wisdom literature. One of the book’s most unique qualities is that it asks two difficult questions—“Why do righteous people choose righteousness?” and “Why do the righteous suffer?”—but offers no simple answers. Instead, the book of Job invites faithful readers to exercise faith in God, as when Job said of the Lord, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him” (Job 13:15). The book also urges the faithful to look beyond the trials of this life to the glorious Resurrection made possible by the Savior, for Job boldly testified, “I know that my redeemer liveth, and … in my flesh shall I see God” (Job 19:25–26).
The book of Job is also distinctive for a passage confirming the reality of the premortal life, in which “the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy” at the Creation of the earth (Job 38:7).
Modern revelation confirms the existence of the man Job. As recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants, Jesus Christ comforted the Prophet Joseph Smith by comparing his afflictions to those of Job: “Thou art not yet as Job; thy friends do not contend against thee, neither charge thee with transgression, as they did Job” (D&C 121:10).
Job 1–2. In a prologue that begins the poetic narrative, the Lord and Satan are imagined to discuss Job’s faithfulness and prosperity. Satan suggests that Job is righteous only because he is blessed. The Lord gives Satan permission to afflict Job but not kill him. Job perseveres and remains faithful through the loss of his personal wealth, his children, and finally his own health.
Job 3–37. Job laments his afflictions and wonders if it would have been better to never have been born. Three of Job’s friends—Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar—come to offer comfort to Job, but they begin to question his claims that he does not deserve his suffering. The four then discuss the nature of suffering in this life. Job’s friends say that God’s justice does not punish the righteous; therefore, Job’s suffering must be linked to some sin he has committed. Job avows his innocence and maintains his trust in God, even though he does not know why these trials have come upon him. A younger man named Elihu then offers his insights on the reasons for Job’s suffering.
Job 38:1–42:6. The Lord appears and asks Job many questions, leading Job to consider the ultimate power and superiority of God. The Lord explains to Job that it is difficult for a mortal to see things from His perspective. Job humbly submits to the Lord and His judgments.
Job 42:7–17. In a brief epilogue, the Lord blesses Job for his faithfulness by granting him double the possessions he lost, allowing him to have the same number of children once more, and restoring him to his former status. Job lives a long and full life.